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Posted: 4:24 PM- The University of Utah is attempting to reach first-generation high school students with a $1 million grant from the Jack Kent Cooke Foundation.

The funding will create the College Advising Corps, which will be run much like AmeriCorps and Teach for America, where the corps will train U. seniors to work full time as advisers for one to two years following graduation.

"We are honored to be chosen and see this as a statewide initiative that will address the perception of who belongs and who can succeed at a college or university, which often excludes students of color, first-generation students, and other students who face substantial barriers," said Theresa Martinez, assistant vice president for academic outreach, who is the principal investigator on the grant and will lead the program.

Over the next four years, the U. will create college-advising programs at 14 high schools around the state. Advisers will provide one-on-one counseling and hand out college-preparation information to all students.

The program aims to reach 4,400 high schoolers over four years. The U.'s program is based on a successful model created by the University of Virginia and funded by the foundation.

"This innovative approach has succeeded in Virginia with notable increases in applications to colleges in high schools where the guides work," said Josh Wyner, vice president of programs for the Jack Kent Cooke Foundation. "At one Virginia high school, we saw a 23 percent jump in the college admissions acceptance rate."

Utah high school students are among some of the most college-ready in the nation, yet some of the least likely to be in college by age 19. Although 84 percent of Utahns ages 18 to 24 have regular high school diplomas, only 34 percent are enrolled in college, down from 41 percent in 1992. In 2004, only 43 percent of high school graduates in Utah went on to college immediately upon leaving high school, the lowest rate in the nation, according to a statement from the U.

-- Sheena McFarland can be contacted at" Target="_BLANK"> or 801-257-8619.